Governor Andrew Cuomo has awarded $3.5 million for the final design of the Niagara Gorge Project.
The project will replace two miles of expressway along the Niagara Scenic Parkway with a scenic trail network and a smaller road to enhance access to the waterfront. It will enable new recreation opportunities including scenic overlooks and trails for hiking, cycling and cross-country skiing.
Waterfront advocates have been urging the Federal Highway Administration to expedite the project. Opened to traffic in 1964, the former Robert Moses Parkway has been maligned by critics who say, while it was built with good intentions, it instead severed Niagara Falls residents from its waterfront.
"From what I know of the revitalization of cities across the country, where there's a waterfront and where access has been denied, restoring access to the waterfront is always part of the successful story of the revitalization of those cities," Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster said back in March.
The $3.5 million was approved by the New York Power Authority trustees. Removal of the expressway is expected to start in early 2018 and take about two years.
"Rather than a heavy reliance on federal funding, the New York Power Authority has committed to fund the design cost and 70 percent of the construction costs for the Robert Moses Parkway North removal project," Congressman Brian Higgins said with Dyster at his side.
It is a commitment he says is most appropriate, given that the NYPA first built the parkway, evicted dozens of homeowners to build the roadway and continues to own the land beneath the Parkway. Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in the United States and sees about 8 million visitors a year.